During Saturday’s broadcast on FOX between the Dodgers and Giants, three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw donned the headset for an in-game interview. The interviewer — I believe it was C.J. Nitkowski — asked Kershaw a leading question about the pitcher win as a stat. Kershaw, to his credit, didn’t bite the bait:
FOX: There’s a conversation that goes on, at least from this part of the game amongst analysts, amongst people that follow the numbers about pitchers’ wins. A lot of people think there’s not a lot of value in them. I always say pitchers absolutely believe that there are values in them. For you, would you rather throw a shutout and get a no-decision, or maybe you have what would be an off-game for you which might only be seven innings and two runs but you still get the win? Explain to people why pitchers’ wins are so important to pitchers.
Kershaw: I kind of disagree for the most part. I mean, do we win the no-decision or not as a team?
FOX: […] Team wins are the most important. But what about pitcher wins? Are they overvalued?
[At this point, it feels like Kershaw doesn’t want to throw the interviewer under the bus so he plays along.]
Kershaw: At the end of the day, they might be a little overvalued but still, it feels good to look up and see your record being a winning record as opposed to 2-6 or something even if you’re pitching well. I think the confidence factor and having a good record, it definitely helps. But you can, nowadays, look at a lot of things and understand how well a guy’s pitching or not.
FOX: You’re killing me, dude. Brian Kenny is gonna be all over me now. […]
Kershaw: What I will say, though, is that there’s certain pitchers out there that know how to win games and that always keep their team in games. We had a guy for the last three years, Zack Greinke, even this year he started off slow but he’s still, you know, 8-3 or something like that. He just knows how to win. You can see that over the course of a career. So there’s definitely guys out there like that that no matter what their peripheral numbers are know how to win the game.
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The debate over the usefulness of the pitcher win statistic has been beaten into the ground, but it’s worth noting how the baseball zeitgeist is changing. Because Sabermetrics are so much a part of the game now, players currently playing and those that will be coming into the league in the future will be well-versed in the statistics. Players in the past balked at the new numbers because they weren’t used to them and their value hadn’t yet been demonstrated. Once the players are on board, it will be only certain segments of the media left in the dust. Adapt or die, as they say.
By the way, some pitcher record oddities:
- David Price: 7-3, 4.63 ERA
- Rick Porcello: 7-2, 4.02 ERA
- Nathan Eovaldi: 6-2, 4.42 ERA
- Drew Pomeranz: 5-6, 2.44 ERA
- Jose Quintana: 5-7, 2.66 ERA
- Julio Teheran: 2-6, 2.85 ERA
As that selection illustrates, a pitcher can overcome poor performance if his team has a good offense. On the flip side, a pitcher can be screwed out of wins if his team has trouble scoring runs or has a subpar bullpen.